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Pull up a chair folks, we need to chat a bit. As I expected when news of 3 different banks went belly up, I got a lot of Emails from people in a bit of a panic. “What do I do?”” was a common theme.
The most common question was about gold. “Should I take my money out of the bank and buy gold?” Then there were the ones asking about “should I move my money to smaller local banks, or stay with the big one’s?” The list of questions is pretty long folks.
But to be honest with you and I try and be as much as I can, the questions sort of “bothered” me. If you’ve been reading what I write for any length of time, you should know the basic answers to these types of questions. Now I don’t want to sound snarky here at all, I’m just being serious. We’ve put out two articles a week for over 25 years. Every one of those type questions has been answered in the past.
Which means I either don’t get the message across properly, or some folks don’t “get” what I mean, and others simply don’t/didn’t believe that big trouble could come. But trouble will come. Remember the series I wrote about Dark Winter? I didn’t write that to show you that I know how to grow vegetables, or shoot guns. I did it because trouble is indeed in our future.
So let me see how much of this I can pack into a single article. We are in a debt based system. As completely bizarro as that sounds, our economy is based on the idea of ever rising debt levels. Let me ask you a question, how many times since say 1970 have you heard people in Congress say that they have to get spending under control and our National debt reduced? A hundred? Five hundred? And how has that worked out?
Here's the little secret that they don’t want you to know. They NEVER plan on paying back the debt. The system was designed to be milked for all they can get out of it. Very bright people many decades ago knew exactly how to create a stable vibrant economy, one backed by “something.” But they shelved that idea for a fiat, unbacked, unlimited debt deal. Why? Because if you can print so called money out of thin air, why not print the hell out of it, use it to build roads, and bridges, and military toys, and rockets and “stuff” you want? Then when the debts are at the most unimaginable levels, when it’s impossible to keep playing the whack-a-mole game, you simply default on it all, and then “restart” with a stable currency backed by something. Gold comes to mind.
If there was ever a case to just sit back and watch, this is it. Let me explain…
Fed head Powell made it very clear on Tuesday and Wednesday that he was going to hike rates “faster, and higher, and longer” than Wall Street wanted. When the bell rang Wednesday afternoon to close the market show, I was convinced he was going to give us a 50 basis point rate hike in less than two weeks.
But then Thursday we started hearing about some big trouble at the Silicon Valley bank, and the stock was getting slaughtered. Like falling 50% and then some. The problem seemed to be that they were sort of experiencing a run on their bank, after there was some questions about their liquidity situation.
Friday morning we got hit with two things. First the jobs report hit and it was sort of mixed, giving a couple different signals. Now first off realize that NONE of the official numbers are real. None. There’s so many hands in the cookie jar, and so many adjustments, no one knows how much fudging the other guy has done. So all we can do is go by the official baloney. Well they say 311,000 jobs were created.
In a normal world, more jobs would be great. But in a Wall Street driven, fed fearing world, more jobs than expected is bad. Yes the supposed unemployment rate moved up a bit, but then so did Labor participation, so it was sort of a wash. The bottom line was that the jobs number did nothing to convince me that Powell wouldn’t be doing a 50 basis point hike on the 22nd.
But then more and more word came hitting the wires concerning Silicon Valley Bank, and the big questions started. Did Powell’s rapid rate hikes “break” the debt/bond market? Were other banks in trouble? Were past hikes finally catching up and crashing things?
Then the news hit that the bank had been shut down by the California banking regulators and the FDIC was going to be in control of things. That sent panic waves across the market and the stock indexes were whipping around like a loose water hose. For instance at one point the DOW was green by 50 points, and not long after it was red by 400.
Investors have itchy fingers these days – or perhaps it’s just the way they have their high frequency computer algorithms programmed.
Either way, it’s why analysts like Felix Salmon see markets “trembl[ing] at the Fed's every twitch.” And yet, he points out, it doesn't seem to be having much effect on the economy.
Salmon adds that the Fed's main policy tool — even more important than setting interest rates or printing money — is the trust that Americans have in it to do the right thing.
According to recent surveys, a majority of Americans believes the U.S. is in an ongoing recession that the Fed has not only failed to prevent but is seen as having caused it (or is on the verge of causing it).
Analysts say the economy is running hotter than it should be, that the job market remains tight with headline unemployment at historic lows, and that mixed signals abound about the scope of the coming downturn.
A major study out last Friday finds that the Federal Reserve has never reduced inflation from high levels, much like today’s, without causing a recession.
The paper was written by a group of leading economists, with three current Fed officials addressing its conclusions at a conference on monetary policy.
When inflation takes off, as it has over the past two years, the Fed normally reacts by raising interest rates – sometimes forcefully – to try to put the brakes on price increases and cool the economy in the process.
The higher rates, directly or indirectly, make mortgages, car loans, credit card debt and commercial lending more expensive.
But sometimes – again, like today – inflation remains stubbornly high, requiring even higher rates to rein it in.
When you’ve been writing articles for as long as I have, and in some (many) of them you make predictions, you know you will win some and lose some. You simply hope to win more than you lose.
My thesis on inflation and the Fed has been right unfortunately. Some of the catchy little phrases I’ve used is “it’s different this time” and I’ve gone to great lengths to suggest that this current fed, is NOT going to be bullied by the market.
In fact, one of the more comical things I’ve seen in the last 3 months has been the so called “experts” on the market, explaining how the Fed MUST pivot towards cutting rates, and how they most certainly will. Yet time after time, whether it’s Powell, or Mester, or Bullard or whomever…they simply say “higher for longer.” And then the experts go off in a huff and a puff.
The world we live in right now, is crazier than at any time in my life. We, (Humanity) is being attacked as never before. I mention the WEF ( World Economic Forum) a lot, because in years past the globalist scumbags tried to keep their plans secret. From the Club of Rome, the Builderbergers, the CFR, etc, all kept their dirty little agenda’s hidden from the public. But not Satan-Klaus and his band. They tell you right to your face how much they hate you and want you dead.
Hey at LEAST they’re telling you the truth. They are all in on population reduction, eliminating your choice of food, what kind of travel you can or can’t do, taking over your healthcare, setting up 15 minute cities, eliminating dairy farms, cattle ranches and on and on. Right in your face.
But other than them, 99.9% of everything else you’re told is pure BS. Safe and effective comes to mind. Or Trump was a Russian plant, or we didn’t blow up the Nordstream pipeline, or Iraq having WMD’s, or Russia had no incentive to invade Ukraine, or Russia is paving the way to conquer Europe, or there’s 89 genders, or ivermectin is dangerous and doesn’t work, or, or, or, or etc ad-infinitum. You get it. Everything’s a lie.
So, if everything is a lie ( amazingly except what the WEF says they want to do to you) it’s awful hard to figure out fact from fiction. The gift of discernment is very important in trying to understand the ultimate goals of the various agenda’s.
When it comes to the Fed and hiking rates, I am on the record in these pages back in March of last year, as saying that inflation would be more than people expected, and last longer than people expected and that the fed was going to use rate hikes to fight this inflation. Oh, and just so you understand, my theory is that they’re using inflation as the cover for rate hikes.
Stan A. emailed me the following in response to my article that asked: “Could the National Popular Vote Compact Cure What Ails Us?:
“It seems that the real problem is “Winner Takes ALL” and not the Electoral College.
“If the federal government mandated that winner takes all can’t be used with the electoral college, but electors must be apportioned by the popular vote in each state, it seems that it would solve the problem.”
Mr. Amatucci’s proposed solution makes a lot of sense – possible even more effective than the National Popular Vote. It’s simple, straightforward and deserves serious consideration as the constitutional amendment.
Another subscriber, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote:
“Aside from basing electoral college votes on the popular vote in each state, a constitutional amendment to limit the presidency to citizens between the ages of 35 and 75 would be in the best interests of the country.”
I agree, subscriber; the Qualifications Clause in Article II, Section 1, of the constitution requires the President to be a natural-born citizen, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.
First off, let me start with this. Sunday is my 40th wedding anniversary. Forty years ago, my better half lost her mind and said yes in front of a crowd of 100 people at our little church in South Amboy, NJ.
I’m not terribly sentimental about things, but it’s hard to not remember the wedding or the days leading up to it. My friend Jack from “college” ( trade school) flew in to be my best man. Well on the night before the wedding, Jack and I are in my condo, getting ready for bed and there’s a ring of the doorbell. Hmm that’s odd, it's a cold February night in Highlands NJ, it’s snowing, and it’s almost midnight.
I went down to answer the door and there’s a truly “knock out” beautiful girl standing there, dressed like she just came back from a night in the clubs. Oh, and she was definitely “buzzed.”
She said she needed to see David, she needed to see if she could spend the night, because for some reason she couldn’t go home. Well David was the person that owned the condo before me. So I had to explain to her that Dave’s not here any longer, he moved with the military, and I hope you can try another friend.
But she was insistent. She needed a place to stay for the night and wanted in. She was pleading to come in, and then suggested she could make it worth my while. It was at that point, I started to think ‘Hey, I bet one of my goofy friends is behind this, and I’m getting set up here.” So I told her, “I’m getting married at noon tomorrow, and no I can’t let you in, it wouldn’t quite look right. “ She finally left in a huff, cursed me out and to this day I don’t know if it was coincidental, or if I was being tested somehow. Well it’s 40 years later and I guess I passed.
It’s been wonderful. Have there been rough patches? You bet. But you take the bad with the good, and in the end, it has worked out as well as I could have asked for. For all you out there that are working on 30, or 40 or 50+ years, Congrats and Kudo’s. We’ve become a rare breed.
Okay so the high stakes game of chicken continues. Not only did the CPI come in hot, the PPI came in hot. But the market ignored both and every dip was bought. They wouldn’t let it fade. Then to top it all off “The Bullard” and fed head Menard both suggested that they wouldn’t be against a 50 basis point hike in March.
For all intents and purposes, the 2024 presidential election campaign is off and running.
In fact, some pundits say it started the day after the midterm congressional elections two months ago. Others say Donald Trump lit the fuse a week later when he announced another run for political gold.
And now, former South Carolina governor – and Trump’s ambassador to the UN – Niki Haley has announced. And former President Trump has already dubbed his presumed toughest Republican competitor, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, as “Meatball Ron.”
On the democratic side, virtually all of America is waiting for President Joe Biden to officially announce his candidacy for reelection – after a bully pulpit-like State of the Union address last week.
Thus, once again, with so much policy, legal action and geopolitical volatility in flux, Americans will soon face another spirited debate over not just who we should vote for but how we even should choose our presidents.
To Campaign or Not to Campaign
One thing is certain, however: 41 states and the District of Columbia are already in the bag for either the 2024 Republican or Democratic presidential nominee.
Why? Because of the state-by-state, winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes for president and vice president. Remember, 270 or more electoral votes are needed to win the presidency.
According to the National Popular Vote, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization (NPV), the Republican nominee can count on 218 electoral votes from 24 states (red on the map above).
The Democratic nominee can count on just about the same – 211 electoral votes from 17 states and DC (blue on the map).
NPV says the 2024 campaign will be concentrated in just 9 states (yellow on the map), which (together with one competitive congressional district in Maine and in Nebraska) have a combined total of 109 electoral votes.
Close analysis shows that presidential candidates only campaign in closely divided states where they have something to gain or lose. In practice, this has meant that the candidates are separated by no more than eight percentage points in polls.
Because Iowa, Ohio, and Florida are no longer in this competitive range, the number of spectator states will reach a high of 41 in 2024.
Ambrose Evans Ambrose-Pritchard writes in The Telegraph that “monetary tightening is like pulling a brick across a rough table with a piece of elastic.
“Central banks tug and tug: nothing happens. They tug again: the brick leaps off the surface into their faces.”
Or as economist Paul Krugman puts it, the task is like trying to operate complex machinery in a dark room wearing thick mittens.
Lag times, blunt tools, and bad data all make it impossible to execute a beautiful soft-landing.
Way back in late 2007, the economy went into recession, a lot earlier than originally thought and almost a year before the demise of not-too-big-to-fail Lehman Brothers.
But the Federal Reserve apparently didn’t know – or acknowledge – that at the time.
The initial data release was way off base, as it frequently is at certain points in the business cycle.
The Fed’s main predictive model was showing an 8% risk of recession at the time. Today, by the way, it’s under 5%. Evans-Pritchard remarks, “It never catches recessions and is beyond useless.”
Fed officials later complained they wouldn’t have taken their hawkish stance on inflation the next year had the data told them what was accurately happening in real time.
And, more importantly, they wouldn’t have set off the chain reaction leading the global financial system to come crashing down.
Evans-Pritchard, however, ponders that had the Fed and its peers overseas paid more attention – or any attention for that matter – to the quickly evolving slowdown in the first half of 2008, they would have seen what was coming.
So, where does that leave us today as the Fed, European Central Bank and Bank of England hike rates at the fastest pace and more aggressively in four decades, with massive QT as icing on their cake?
According to Evans-Pritchard, the monetarists are again crying the apocalypse is coming! They’re accusing central banks of inexcusable errors:
First, they unleashed the high inflation of the early 2020s with an explosive monetary expansion.
Then, they swung to the other extreme of monetary contraction – disregarding both times the standard quantity theory of money.
Eternal optimist Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says she sees a path for avoiding a recession, with inflation down significantly and the economy remaining strong, given a strong jobs market.
"You don't have a recession when you have 500,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years," Yellen exclaimed.
"What I see is a path in which inflation is declining significantly and the economy is remaining strong."
Of course, being the team player she is, Yellen said inflation remains too high.
But she believes it could fall a lot more because of action taken by the Biden administration, including steps to reduce the cost of gasoline and prescription drugs.
Labor Department data out last Friday showed job growth jumped up steeply in January – nonfarm payrolls leaped by 517,000 jobs and the headline unemployment rate dropped to a 53-and-a-half-year low of 3.4%.
The strength in hiring, despite growing layoffs in tech, overnight reduced investor expectations that the Federal Reserve was close to pausing its cycle of hiking interest rates.
Unemployment is Higher Than What They Tell Us
The Fed, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank all raised interest rates this week again to fresh multi-year highs.
They just can’t seem to help themselves.
At the same, they each suggested or explicitly warned that there is more tightening coming plus a willingness to hold their policies at hawkish levels for a while.
They just can’t seem to help themselves.
Let’s focus on the Fed. Inflation and all of its major drivers fell in the last half of 2022.
I’m not going to say it fell sharply, steeply or significantly, because some prices have come down – some even sharply, some just a tad – and some have not at all.
The so-called price deceleration occurred despite the pace of economic growth, which picked up in the second half of the year and unemployment remained fairly static.
We know that the goal of the Fed’s statutory dual mandate is to balance the risks of inflation versus the benefits of solid economic growth and maximum unemployment.
Jeremy Bivens points out that currently, “the benefits of low unemployment are enormous, and the risks of inflation are retreating rapidly.”
Here’s what he wrote before the Fed’s 25-basis point rate hike on Wednesday:
“If the Fed lets the current recovery continue [quickly] by not raising interest rates further at this week’s meeting, 2023 could turn out to be a great year for the economic fortunes of American families.
“It is time for the Fed to stand pat on interest rate increases and wait to see how the lagged effects of past increases enacted in 2022 will filter through to the economy.
“Continuing to raise rates in the early stretches of 2023 will be a clear mistake and pose an unneeded threat to growth in the next year.”
He envisioned a Powell press conference after a meeting at which the Fed decided to leave rates alone, emphasizing these points:
Last fall, on a Financial Survival podcast, Discount Gold and Silver Trading CEO Melody Cedarstrom and I talked about a study showing that top CEOs made 399 times more than the average worker.
According to the Economic Policy Institute report, written by Josh Bivens and Jori Kandra, CEOs of the largest firms (in the U.S.) earn far more today than they did in the mid-1990s and many times what they earned in the 1960s and 70s.
The average pay for top CEOs was $15.6 million in 2021, up about 10% over 2020.
The ratio of CEO-to-typical-worker compensation has grown to an astounding 399-to-1.
That’s up from 366-to-1 in 2020 and a big increase from 20-to-1 in 1965 and 59-to-1 in 1989.
CEOs are even making a lot more than other wage earners in the top 0.1% – almost seven times as much.
In fact, from 1978-2021, CEO pay based on realized compensation grew by 1,460%. That far outstrips S&P stock market growth (1,063%) and top 0.1% earnings growth (385% between 1978 and 2020).
On the other far side of the continuum, compensation for the everyday American worker grew by just 18.1% from 1978 to 2021.
CEO Pay vs. Layoffs Not a Good Optic
Well maybe a few more than two. But first off, did you all see Biden promising 31 more tanks to Ukraine? I watched his 20 minute word salad speech and I was speechless. They want this war to go on and on and on. They want all the spending they can squeeze out of this, and boy the money is flowing.
It took me a long time…over two hours. But I wanted to look up the first time I said that when the economy is in the toilet, they will spark a war, open the debt gates and spend their way out of the hole. Well it was all the way back during the NASDAQ meltdown, and sure enough, we went into Iraq over the BS of weapons of mass destruction. 20 years ago. I probably said it sometime in the 90’s also, but got tired of searching.
Once the war time spending hits, they can spend their way out of most recessions. Well, they’ve done it again. They set up the Ukraine since 2013 to be the area ( patsy) for the next multi billion dollar war spending spree. So it worked. They pushed and pushed Russia to the point where Putin did what any world leader would do…he snapped and pushed back.
That was and is the plan and the reason all these politicians are saying things like “what ever it takes” concerning helping Ukraine win. Listen folks, these people don’t give a rats ass about the Ukrainian people. They do like the Ukrainian chemicals, rare earths, and oil and gas…but the people? To the politicians they’re just as expendable as the people in Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Palestine, and a hundred other places. Cannon fodder, nothing more. Oh and a good place to launder their millions of dollars…they do like that too.
But they’re playing a very dangerous game this time around. Russia isn’t Iraq or Libya. Russia isn’t Vietnam or Afghanistan. Russia is a very formidable opponent. So, while they’re all in on this war because of the debt that the Central banks can create and the money that gets spent on more armaments…if it gets out of control, we are in WWIII, with the death and destruction that brings. War is a racket, as quoted by Gen. Smedly Butler so long ago. Well this is one of their biggest rackets ever.
Okay, so lets me get back to market land. This coming week is yet another two day FOMC meeting, where they will determine what they’re going to do with interest rates. Then, on the second day of the meeting, Powell himself will give a Q&A press conference, where he’ll get asked 25 times “when are you going to pause and when are you going to cut rates.” Both of which he will dance around in Fed speak. He’s not as good as Mumbles Greenspan, but he’s pretty deft at it.
Matt Phillips is right when he observes that “the debt ceiling circus has arrived in D.C.” and it’s not going away anytime soon.
He writes today that the closer the federal government gets to “stiffing creditors” and going into an unprecedented default, “the bigger the implications will be for the markets and the economy.”
As I wrote in Friday’s article, the government hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit last Thursday.
While that’s a big deal, it’s nothing compared to what will happen to financial markets if the government defaults sometime mid-year.
For now, it just means the Treasury Department has to start using "extraordinary measures" – like drawing down its cash balances and deferring contributions to government pension funds – to keep paying its bills.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress that her department can keep juggling payments at least until June.
Markets don't appear to be overly worried at this point. But just wait. As Phillips points out, the longer the debt ceiling drama plays out — and the closer the government comes to default — the crazier markets will get.
That's exactly what happened in the summer of 2011, when we last came perilously close to the Thelma & Louise Driving Over the Edge moment into the abyss.
That year, as the crisis got worse into July and early August, the S&P 500 plummeted 15% and credit spreads that determined costs for home mortgages and corporate borrowings surged.
That jump came as investors grew leery of lending in the face of growing risk and uncertainty.
On the other side, those who say they want to cut government debt levels will likely claim that the turmoil the debt fight raised over a decade ago was worth it – despite the U.S.’s lowered credit rating.
They point to the Budget Control Act of 2011 that resulted from that debt limit fight, which helped cut federal budget deficits in subsequent years (note that it hasn’t actually helped cut the national debt, an important distinction).
So, however it turns out, the fight over raising the debt ceiling and avoiding default is going to hang over the markets for a good chunk of the year.
And, at least for investors, according to Phillips, “it's likely to be a bummer.”
After exploding out of the starting gate a few weeks ago, the paper markets are getting a big smack in the face this week.
Stocks slumped for a third straight session yesterday, as the S&P declined by 0.8%, and it’s now down 2.5% for the week – on track for the first negative week of the year.
On the other hand, Treasuries have done well this week. Remember that bond prices move in the opposite direction of their yields (thus, falling yields mean rising prices).
The benchmark 10-year yield, which started this holiday-shortened week at just shy of 3.5%, took a nosedive on Wednesday and is now poised to finish the week about 10 basis points lower – at 3.4%.
Notably, the 10-year vs. the 2-year yield curve inversion (3.4% vs. 4.2%) continue to signal that investors at best see the Fed reversing course over the coming year and reducing rates. At worst, they see a coming recession.
The 10-year vs. 90-day yield inversion is even greater.
In the precious metals market, gold is up 0.7% for the week and is up 5.6% since January 1st. Silver is slightly up for the week (0.2%) but is slightly down since the start of the year (0.3%).